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Native American Languages: The Ojibwe Language of the Chippewa Indian Tribe

written by: Sonal Panse • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 11/26/2012

The Ojibwe language is one of the most widely spoken of the Native American languages. It has been used as a trade language by both the Ojibwe and non-natives. Here's a brief look at the Ojibwe language and at some Ojibwe phrases.

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    Spoken by the Anishinabe Indians

    The Ojibwe language, a member of the Algonquian linguistic family, is the language of the Anishinabe Indians. The Anishinabe are also known as Ojibwe and Chippewa, but they themselves prefer to be called Anishinabe or 'Original People'. The word Ojibwe refers to the distinctive puckered moccasins worn by these people and the word Chippewa appears to have arisen from French mispronunciation of Ojibwe.

    As it is spoken by the Anishinabe, the Ojibwe language is also called Anishinaabemowin, Anihshininiimowin or Ojibwemowin. This is how the Anishinabe themselves refer to it.

    The Anishinabe lived in the Great Lakes Region, with tribes spread out across the area between Michigan and Ontario. As there were many different Anishinabe tribes - due to different locations as well as different politics - different, mutually understandable dialects arose. Some of these dialects include:

    • Eastern Ojibwe
    • Western Ojibwe
    • Southwestern Ojibwe
    • Northwestern Ojibwe
    • Severn Ojibwe
    • Ottawa
    • Algonquin

    The Ojibwe language is one of the most widely spoken of the Native American Indian languages. It has been used over the years as a common trade language by other Native Americans and non-Indians as well. A pidgin form of Ojibwe known as Broken Oghibbeway also has been used.

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    The Ojibwe Grammar

    Here are some characteristics of the Ojibwe Grammar:

    • The Ojibwe language contains nouns, pronouns, prenouns, verbs, preverbs and particles.
    • There are singular and plural nouns.
    • There are two genders, animate and inanimate.
    • The grammar shows number, tense, negation and modality.
    • It has the obviative and the proximate third persons marked in both verbs and nouns.
    • Words are formed by added inflections, prefixes and suffixes.
    • There are few loan-words from other languages. If needed, new words are created from the existing vocabulary.
    • The sentence word orders are usually VOS (Verb-Object-Subject) and VSO (Verb-Subject-Object).
    • Ojibwe consonants sound the same as English consonants.
    • Ojibwe has double vowels like 'zh' (pronounced 'juh'), 'a' (pronounced 'uh'), 'aa' (pronounced 'ah'), 'i' (pronounced 'e'), 'ii' (pronounced 'ee'), 'o' (pronounced 'oh'), 'oo' (pronounced 'uoo') and 'e' (pronounced 'ay').

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    Some Ojibwe Phrases

    • Come here - Bi jian oma
    • Hello, how are you? - Aanii, aaniin ezhiayaayan?
    • Thank you, I am well - Migwetch nin mino bimadis
    • I am happy to hear it - Nin minwendam nondaman iwi
    • What is your name? - Aaniin ezhinikaazoyan?
    • My name is XYZ - Niin XYZ nindizhinikaaz
    • Where are you from? - Aandi wenjibaayan?
    • I come from home - Endaing nine ondjiba
    • What time is it?- Aaniin endaso-diba’ iganed?
    • Seven o’ clock - Niizhwaaso-diba’ iganed
    • What do you say? - Aaniin ekitoain?

    Visit Early Canadiana Online for more Ojibwe phrases.